Pokemon Go is an augmented reality, free to play, mobile game developed by Niantic and is based on the characters created by Nintendo.
Released in selected countries in July 2016, New Zealand was one of the few countries to have gotten the game and what an uptake it was. From day one of the launch of Pokemon Go on iOS and Android devices, there was a huge number of people downloading the app and playing the game, garnering the game a superb amount of hype. People from all ages and all walks of life began taking to the streets and the outdoors to catch Pokemon (the cute little creatures based on the popular Nintendo games and cartoons) to both the benefit and detriment of society.
When the game first launched, I noticed a vast number of articles and cases that illustrated the negative effects of the augmented reality game. Being an addictive game that requires focus on mobile screens in order to ‘catch’ wild Pokemon, players have had the misfortune of walking into oncoming traffic, being a target of robberies, injuring themselves and other such mishaps. The game seemed to do more damage than good, especially in young children who are easily distracted.
As the game began launching worldwide, it was easy to think of the game as being a silly method of distracting people and luring them into a game which will eventually cost money. I even heard of cases where fiancees and partners were losing their significant others to the game, so much so, that one particular woman wrote an article on how much she despises Pokemon Go.
Despite all the positive coverage on the game and its part in encouraging people to take to the outdoors, going for walks and socialising with others, I personally saw the game as just another momentary ‘it’ thing that would encourage people to ignore their responsibilities, spend countless hours a day playing and stare at a screen all day. I was strongly against ever playing the game and truly believed that the world would be better off without such a hyped up game as all it does is teach young children to be caught up in the latest hype and to take part in what others do, essentially becoming a sheep who follows the herd rather than a leader.
In just under two weeks, I became one of those sheep. A large number of people in my workplace began actively playing the game and were being especially social with one another, which piqued my interest. What is it that these people were up to that sounded like so much fun?
My workplace generally isn’t social, at least not with anything non-work related. So when two of my good work mates jumped on board the Pokemon Go hype train and began actively playing and sending me Snapchats of their catches, a large part of me felt the need to find out what it was that made the game so thrilling.
Downloading the app, I signed up and began my journey, once again, into the Pokemon world that I was once a part of as a child. Initially, my reaction was lukewarm as I tried to learn about the game and what it meant to ‘catch’ Pokemon. Upon my first catch, I began to take an interest in the game and by the end of my first week, I was hooked. The game allows you to catch Pokemon, train them, collect items at Pokestops and use your inventory of Pokemon creatures in battles at Pokemon Gyms in order to reach higher levels. While this is the goal for many players, there are some, like me, who simply want to catch them all.
The gameplay is simple and does not include having to battle wild Pokemon in order to capture them. Upon encountering a wild Pokemon, players simply have to throw a Pokeball at it with the flick of a finger, from the bottom of the screen where the Poke Balls are, to the top of the screen, where the Pokemon usually sit. Upon trapping the Pokemon in the Pokeball, the wild Pokemon becomes owned by the player and sits within the player’s Pokedex, which is effectively a Pokemon encyclopedia of sorts. The idea then is to catch enough of a particular type of Pokemon to gain candies, which in turn, allows the Pokemon to evolve and become stronger.
Having played the game, I have come to experience the addictive nature of the game as well as the many distractions that come with spotting unique Pokemon and attempting to catch them. While this confirms my initial theory about the possible negative effects of the game, I do see the many benefits too. On the night of my birthday dinner, my friends and I spotted lures at a nearby location and decided to catch ourselves some Pokemon. What I saw changed my mind completely about the game as a whole. At the lure spot, there were at least a dozen of people all playing Pokemon Go. We sat amongst the crowd and joined in on the hunt, socialising with strangers about our catches and strategies for powering up. Never in my life have I experienced something like that. Sure, I’ve been to big events, concerts and the like where I’ve met new people but never on a typical Saturday night with a bunch of people who are just on their phones. I thoroughly enjoy socialising and being amongst nice and friendly people so stopping at the lure spot made my night so much more fun.
It was that night that I really was converted into a Pokemon Go-er. I loved the interaction it allowed me to have with people and I started to discover positive articles about Pokemon Go changing the lives of those who suffer from social anxiety, disability and those who generally prefer to remain indoors. Of course, there are still reports from all over the world about players disregarding safety warnings and are completely oblivious to what’s around them. Nevertheless, Pokemon Go not only appears to benefit its players but also retailers, who are using the game and lure modules to attract more traffic into their stores. With the three teams (Instinct, Mystic and Valor) being introduced to the game, there are now plenty of accessories and apparel for fans of the game to truly immerse themselves in Pokemon Go.
I’m not sure how long I’ll keep playing, but Pokemon Go has truly paved the way for augmented reality gaming. As much as I dislike being wrong and being caught up with the latest fad, Pokemon Go has made things more interesting for me socially and I’m sure for many others as well. This is, after all, what really made me go from Pokemon No to Pokemon Go.